Thursday, February 19, 2009

Three Minutes of Ineptitude

While I’ve been to plenty of entertaining games over the past several weeks, for some reason it was not until last evening that I was moved to actually write about something that I’ve seen (actually, that’s not totally accurate, as below I also had the chance to recap the Marquette-Seton Hall game). I didn’t make it down to the UWM-Butler game last night for a variety of reasons (Mostly I was pouting over the fact that I couldn’t find anyone to go to a rock concert that I wanted to see last night.) But that ended up being a good thing, because it allowed me to watch the game on TV and witness something so comically bad that I had to talk about it.

Some of you are probably thinking that I’m talking about the clock mix-up at the end of the game, where controversy ensued over when the game clock started on Butler’s final possession of the game. But I’m talking about something far worse–the announcing of Daron Sutton.

I’ve never been a big fan of Sutton’s broadcast work on UWM games (I frankly don’t know enough about baseball to comment on his baseball announcing skills), but a 2-3 minute stretch last night Sutton and his broadcast partner took things to a new level of ineptitude. With about 2:30 left on the clock in the second half, James Eayrs got tangled up with Butler’s Matt Howard while trying to reign in a loose ball and Eayrs was whistled for an intentional foul.. You could tell that Eayrs foul was an intentional because the referee making the call immediately ran to the play with his hands crossed above his head, the signal for an intentional foul. Sutton and his partner (whose name I wish I could recall, so that I could include him in this shaming) apparently missed the referee in the center of every replay that they watched making one of the most clear hand signals in the game of basketball, as they spent the next 2-3 minutes talking about how offsetting fouls had been called on each Eayrs and Howard. No mention was made of an intentional foul call.

I actually began to question whether I was misinformed about something at that point. I wondered to myself "Is the hand signal for a double foul the same as the hand signal for an intentional foul? Maybe this just happens so infrequently that I don’t know the signal for it." After all, the television crew is presumably fairly close to the scorer’s table and likely hears a lot more referee chatter than I, the home viewer, am privy to. Maybe I just didn’t have all of the information.

As the referees sorted things out and the television reply of the referee clearly signaling an intention foul showed for what seemed like the 15th time, Sutton and his broadcast partner continued their maddening chatter about the double foul that they believed had been called. When Howard eventually stepped to the foul line with no one around him, they briefly speculated that UWM had been whistled for a technical foul before finally figuring out that an intentional foul had been called on Eayrs. As abruptly as this hit them, I can only speculate that some nearby sports writer got tired of overhearing their misreading of the play and finally piped up and said "Hey morons–it was an intentional foul. Were you even watching the replays?" However they eventually figured out what had happened, I was just happy that I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. I was not insane, and had I not been listening to the television announcers, I’d have known exactly what was going on. I guess I was wrong in assuming that the announcers would always be helpful in understanding the events of the game.

Of course, I would be unfair to Sutton and his partner if I didn’t point out that the intentional foul on the play in question was a horrible call. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an intentional foul called in a situation like that. Had I not seen the referee running towards the play with his arms crossed, I’d have been confused by the whole affair, too. But confusing as the call was, that doesn’t excuse the fact that the broadcasting team either didn’t notice the guy in stripes making the intentional foul signal, or didn’t know what the signal meant. That two minute stretch last night was truly a low point for sports broadcasting.

Looking on the bright side (as I always like to do), I feel a lot less upset now about not having the Time Warner Sports Channel at home, and those thoughts that I occasionally have about switching back to Time Warner Cable have subsided a bit. So maybe I should be thanking Daron Sutton and his pal for saving me some hassle.


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